Colin Miles
Aug 12, 2010

Five things you need to know about augmented reality

Colin Miles, EVP and co-founder of i-POP Networks, tells us five things we need to know about augmented reality marketing along with i-POP product director of strategy Ian Morrison.

Colin Miles and Ian Morrison, i-POP Networks
Colin Miles and Ian Morrison, i-POP Networks

1. What is augmented reality?

Augmented reality (AR) can be many things, based on how you trigger the experience.

Location-based AR uses a device's location to determine additional information to share with users.

Camera-based AR processes the video image looking for markers, faces or other images that the application can track and overlay with a rich multimedia experience. This adds graphics to your view of the world or product information to what you are looking at through the eye of a digital camera.

2. What are the marketing applications of AR?

AR has been adopted by many marketers around the world, with Japanese and big American brands leading the way. It offers an exciting new way to engage with users, like allowing people to try out products before buying.

On camera-based AR, there are perhaps two ways to use the camera. First, a consumer can use it to augment his view of the world. AR can also augment his view of self. This is 'firstperson AR', as illustrated by the in-store marketing solution i-POP Networks designed a global retail brand. It opens the door for people (pun intended) to have a virtual changing room experience simply by pointing their phone at the screen. This allowed them to enjoy the next steps through superimposition of 3D images, such as selecting from a range of T-shirts, sharing your image wearing different styles with friends over Facebook and getting them to help select your purchase.

3. AR in marketing may still be in the early days...

But i-POP Networks predicts that, one day, digital mirrors will help people choose the styles of all of their clothes, shoes and even makeup. One will not have to go to the laborious bother of trying them on in the real world. Technology is the challenge. Vendors are still using thick markers that digital cameras can easily detect. This can be cumbersome even as the AR experience can be highly exciting.

4. What's next?

To take AR to the next level, i-POP Networks has now introduced the world's first logo recognition and tracking capability for PC, Android, iPhone and Flash. This takes away the complexities of using bar codes, QR codes or markers. The first logo-only based solution is a mobile 'Magic Business Card' project, which can be used for any company's logo or brand.

This allows for much more relevant interaction with the brand without the distraction of a marker, and opens AR up to a much wider set of layered multimedia applications.

5. How can marketers share the value of AR with customers?

Early AR projects also tend to be a bit quirky, providing a cool but otherwise stand-alone experience.

To remind marketers of how to share real AR value with customers, i-POP Networks has developed a methodology termed the three I's of AR:

  • Idea: This helps remind us that AR must have a good idea to represent the brand. The idea should be meaningful to consumers. How can AR technology best showcase the values of the brand?
  • Interactive: Like all good digital marketing projects, AR should be interactive. This should let users get the best of the AR experience, as they engage with the brand. Whether we grew up with Atari, Nintendo Wii or playing games on our iPhones, we all now expect to be in control of our digital engagement - for the experience to be fun.
  • Integrated: The AR experience should also be integrated sensibly with other marketing activities to ensure the widest possible reach. If it's not easy to drive people to the AR installation, then make it easy for people to share it with their friends online.


With non-marker based solutions and the rising interest to use AR in the real world of marketing, this innovation will be brought to ever wider audiences and it is sure to be ever more meaningful for brands and consumers alike.

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